Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Takebe Shrine: The Shrine That Was on the 1,000 Yen Note

Takebe Shrine (建部大社), close to Seta no Karahashi Bridge (瀬田の唐橋), was the most important shrine in Ōmi Province. Why? Because it has Yamato Takeru no Mikoto (日本武尊) enshrined as the main god. While that might not mean much to you, we still think that Takebe Shrine is still worth a visit. There are a couple of interesting things in the precinct awaiting your discovery. One of them is a banknote now referred to as a dreamlike 1,000 yen banknote (幻の千円札)!

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Takebe Shrine’s History

Because Takebe Shrine is a place enshrining Yamato Takeru no Mikoto, you will see a series of colorful boards once you pass the first torii gate. Together, they tell the life story of the Japanese semi-legendary prince of the Yamato dynasty.

Born in 72 AD, Yamato Takeru was Emperor Keikō’s (景行天皇) most competent son because he expanded the territory under the imperial court’s control. He has since been treated as a legendary figure in Japanese history, and the names of a couple of places in Japan were derived from his story.

Takebe Shrine was formally established in 675. Yamato Takeru’s wife is also enshrined with him, with a wooden statue of her placed in the precinct. The statue is said to have been curved in the Heian period (794 – 1185), and it is now an Important National Cultural Property.

In the Heian period, when Minamoto no Yoritomo (源頼朝) was exiled to Izu, he made a prayer at Takebe Shrine for him to revive the power of his clan. His prayer was granted, and in 1190, he became a general. Thus, people would now come to the shrine to pray for career promotion and success.

Takebe Shrine and the Dreamlike 1,000 Yen Banknote

When you get to the shrine, you will also notice a board with an enlarged version of a 1,000 yen note.

In 1945, straight after the end of World War II, Japan’s first 1,000 yen note was issued. At the time, it was the highest denomination banknote in the country. Proudly printed on the note are Yamato Takeru no Mikoto and Takebe Shrine. Moreover, compared to the banknotes issued thus far, the 1,000 yen note was the most colorful.

As the note was only in the market for seven months, the number of notes issued was extremely low. This is why the banknote is now referred to as a dreamlike 1,000 yen banknote (幻の千円札).

If you want to see the real note, you can find it in the shrine’s museum.

The Wish Stones at Takebe Shrine (願い石)

At Takebe Shrine, not only can you pray at the worship hall, but there are white stones you can bring home!

On the left of the main worship hall, there are three wooden huts. The middle one houses many pebbles, as well as a couple of large white stones. The bigger stones are called Negai-ishi (願い石), the Wish Stones. Put a 1,000 yen into the donation box on the right and take a stone. Then write your wish on the stone. It is said that if you pray to it in the morning and at night every day, your wish will come true.

After your wish has become a reality, please bring the stone back and put it in the container to the right. The priest will hold a ritual using the stone to pray for your family’s prosperity.

Given the number of stones found in the container, it looks like the Takebe Shrine’s stones do indeed have some special power!

The small pebbles are called Okuizome-ishi (お食い初め石). These are for babies around 100 days old. Bring it home and hold a small ritual for your baby. The Japanese would usually invite friends and relatives for a small celebration. The person who performs the ritual will then use a chopstick to touch the stone and then the baby’s gum to wish them strong teeth and to prevent the baby from experiencing starvation in his/her lifetime.

Takebe Shrine and the Imperial Family’s Chrysanthemum Crest

When you walk around Takebe Shrine, you will notice that a lot of the items in the shrine have a chrysanthemum crest. Whether it is the donation box, the door curtain, or the big lantern, they all have a chrysanthemum crest printed. This has everything to do with the main god enshrined, Yamato Takeru no Mikoto, who was a member of the imperial family. You will see the chrysanthemum crest at any property that is (or was) related to the imperial family.

At the back of the main worship hall, there is a chrysanthemum fossil (菊化石). Interestingly, it has a couple of chrysanthemum patterns naturally formed (refer to the 2nd photo in the IG post for a clearer image). While it is placed behind the worship hall’s wall, you can still see it through the railing.

To allow pilgrims to leave money for this object of worship, a narrow wooden stick is placed with the other end atop the wooden traditional plate.

Takebe Shrine’s Special Ema Plaque

On the main worship hall’s right is where pilgrims hang their Ema plaques. Apart from the typical wooden plaque, Takebe Shrine also has a shell-shaped Ema. Looking at the Ema plaque rack from a distance, we were wondering what were the things that were hung with the plaques. Then, we realized the shells were by themselves.

Why the shell-shape? Because in Japanese, wish is pronounced as Negai (願い), and the shell is pronounced as Kai. Thus, adding the “ne” in front of the shell, the name of the Ema becomes “wish”!

Although the Negai Emal Plaque is a little bit more expensive than the normal ones, it is an interesting thing you can get from Takebe Shrine!

Other Things to See at Takebe Shrine

Other things to see at Takebe Shrine include the scenic water garden. Each garden’s stone lantern has different patterns for you to examine. There is also a horse stable with a life-size statue inside (the 2nd photo in the IG post).

The stone lantern in front of the Ema plaque rack is a designated important cultural property. Completed in 1270, it is the oldest stone lantern in Shiga Prefecture. It is said that this stone lantern was made to pray for national security during turbulent times due to the Mongolian invasion.

In addition, the Haiden Hall (拝殿) in the photo above, where pilgrims worshipped the god, was completed in 675.

Takebe Shrine’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • The shrine’s office is open from 9 am to 4 pm.
  • From Keihan’s Karahashi-Mae Station (唐橋前駅), is around a 15-minute walk.
  • From Seta no Karahashi Bridge, it is around a 10-minute walk.
  • You can also take a bus from JR Ishiyama Station (石山駅) and get off at Takebe Taisha-mae (建部大社前).
    • If you choose to walk, it will be around 30 minutes.

Discover Other Attractions in Ōtsu City

Mangetsuji-Ukimido-Otsu-Shiga-Japan
Click the photo to find out more about this stunning spot!

Ōtsu, the capital of Shiga Prefecture, is filled with rich cultural and historical elements. Although it only lasted for five years, we are sure that after you admire the scenery of Japan’s biggest lake – Lake Biwa, it won’t be hard to understand why Emperor Tenji (天智天皇) wanted to stay close to it!

For more information, please refer to our article on Ōtsu City (=゚ω゚)ノ.

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